Help For My Cast Down Soul
Some 15 million Americans a year struggle with depression, this is an illness and it comes in many forms—from major depression and seasonal affective disorder, to dysthymia and bipolar disorder. Depression is an illness that increasingly afflicts people worldwide, interfering with concentration, motivation and many other aspects of everyday functioning. It is a complex disorder, involving many systems of the body, including the immune system, either as cause or effect. It disrupts sleep, and it interferes with appetite, in some cases causing weight loss, in others weight gain. Because of its complexity, a full understanding of depression has been elusive. Scientists have some evidence that the condition is related to the gut and its population of bacteria, which is heavily influenced by diet. Of course, depression involves mood and thoughts as well as the body, and it causes pain for both those with the disorder and those who care about them. Depression is increasingly common in children.
This series of lessons: “Help For My Cast Down Soul” is designed not as the “be all” and “end all” on this complex subject – but, it is structured to highlight the fact that the Precious Word of the Almighty God does indeed contain a word for those that find themselves tormented by the haunting moods of depression.
Everyone experiences an occasional blue mood; depression is a more pervasive experience of bleak outlook and lack of energy. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with a depression cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better. There is some evidence that, painful as depression is, it serves a positive purpose, bringing with it ways of thinking that force people to focus on problems as a prelude to solving them.
Even in the most severe cases, depression is highly treatable. The condition is often cyclical, and early treatment may prevent or forestall recurrent episodes. Many studies show that the most effective treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy, which addresses problematic thought patterns, with or without the use of antidepressant drugs.
It is my earnest prayer and consideration that all those who will read or hear these lessons preached and proclaimed will give cause to pause and reflect on God’s goodness in the midst of their personal and profound need.
Keep the faith, Till the last amen.
Rx For The Soul
I Kn. 19:1-19
Straight Talk About Depression
Dealing With Depression
2 Cor. 12:1-10
Spiritual Solutions For Depression
Coping With Spiritual Depression
Psa. 42: 1- 5
Round And Round We Go
Living With The Consequences
Learning To Be Positive
Rx for the Soul
I Kn. 19:1-19
Psychiatry students were in their college class one day when their professor began a discussion to prove a point. "What we’re going to talk about today," the professor said, "are the emotional extremes that many mentally disturbed people go through… for example - “What’s the opposite of joy?" he asked one student.
"Sadness" the student answered.
"The opposite of depression?" he asked a young lady.
"Elation," she replied.
"Well, now," the Texan replied "I suppose the opposite of woe, would be giddy up."
According to Psychiatrists Frank Minrith & Paul Meier, the majority of Americans suffer from a serious, clinical depression at some point in their lives. Most of these people never get help.... they just fight this battle on their own.
I saw a recent advertisement for Paxil, an anti-depressant. It began with these words…
"Depressed Mood, Loss of Interest, Sleep Problems, Difficulty Concentrating, Agitation, Restlessness,". . . Then it concluded with these words: "Life is too precious to let another day go by feeling not quite ’yourself.’ If you’ve experienced some of these symptoms nearly every day, for at least two weeks, a chemical imbalance could be to blame. And life can feel difficult ALL DAY."
To listen to this advertisement you would believe that most (if not all) of those suffering from depression are victims of a chemical imbalance. And indeed, the Holy Grail of psychiatrists is to find that magic pill, that powerful potion that will correct that imbalance and give people everywhere relief from the dark moments of sadness and hopelessness.
Depression is a very real part of life for many people. A couple of years ago, a congregation offered a time during their Wednesday Evening Service for people to come forward and have the Elders lay hands on them and pray for whatever concerns they may have. The speaker pointed out that there was "a lot of hurt in this room" - sickness, broken relationships, grief. He said that at the invitation, the elders would be available for prayers of grace and Divine mercy.
The response began as a trickle. Soon, others began making their way down from the balcony; walking along individually or in pairs, or rolling forward in wheelchairs. Before long, the trickle became a torrent.
One of the elders said he was not prepared for the response to the invitation. "I was totally surprised by the magnitude of it."
One of the other elders did not expect the vast response either… nor did he anticipate the type of prayer needs revealed. "At least 2 out of 3 asked for prayer for depression," he said.
"I thought it would be more for physical needs. But so many said, ’I’m depressed. I feel unworthy. I see no future." I was amazed at how many felt unworthy."
At the famous Minrith-Meier Clinics - in an average week, 50,000 people will visit the facility for therapy. Seventy-five percent of these clients, says Dr. Meier, will have either Clinical depression or some sort of anxiety disorder. Let me repeat… Depression can be a very real problem
What I find interesting, is – God gives us a case study in clinical depression right here in I Kings 19.
From this text we find that Elijah experienced many of the classic symptoms…
* Fear - “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life….” I Kn. 19:3.
* Suicidal tendencies – “(Elijah) prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, LORD,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’ I Kn. 19:4
* Excessive tiredness – “Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep…” I Kn. 19:5 slept for a couple of days… maybe longer
* Feelings of rejection – “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” I Kn. 19:10
* AND he experienced this depression for a long time – nearly 2 months
Now, what’s really bizarre about this is (that just days before) Elijah had preached one of the greatest sermons of his life. He confronted 400 prophets of Baal on the Mt. Carmel and exposed them as the false prophets they really were. And because of Elijah’s faith & obedience God literally sent fire down out of heaven to consume the sacrifice he’d placed on the altar, and then a few hours later sent a downpour of rain on a land that hadn’t had rain for 3 years.
Why would a man who had preached an impressive message and had experienced some of the most powerful displays of God’s power… Why would he suddenly be crippled by fear, hopelessness and despair? Why would he run away to a desolate corner of the world and seek to die?
No doubt there’s probably all kinds of reasons, but the fact is – he did. And what this tells us is that even God’s most dynamic servants can suffer from depression. It’s not necessarily a mark of a lack of faith. It’s not necessarily a mark of an immoral lifestyle.
Elijah was THE man of God in his day. And now he’s so far DOWN in the depths of despair – even UP looks wrong to him.
But that’s not where God left him - God didn’t say: “well sorry Elijah – you have a chemical imbalance, and Paxil hasn’t been invented yet – so I can’t help you!”
Oh no… long before psychiatry was ever thought of - long before healing could be bought in the little purple pills - long before we had clinics and psychiatrists and psychologists - (not meaning any disrespect to psychiatrists or psychologists or the clinics they run). But, long before all of that… God dealt with a man who was overwhelmed with depression and it was not an isolated instance. And what God did for Elijah, He can do for you and me as well.
I want you to notice what God did in dealing with Elijah:
First – God recognized that Elijah’s depression was not an imaginary problem. Elijah’s depression was real. It was tangible. You could have cut it with a knife. AND God did not say – “get a hold of yourself Elijah. This is a SINFUL attitude … where’s your faith man???” Oh, no… God didn’t treat Elijah roughly or with disdain.
In answer to Elijah’s prayer to die, God just lets him sleep. Then God’s angel feeds him and lets him sleep some more. Then God sends him down to the desert in the South for 40 days and nights.
In all that time, God doesn’t say a word… God doesn’t offer any council. God doesn’t set Elijah down and have a face-to-face talk. In all that time, Elijah is left alone – Elijah’s given time to rest and to think….
Here’s what God did with Elijah. No sermons, no long counseling sessions… just love and rest.
But eventually God did deal with Elijah’s depression head on - And I want you to notice what He did:
1st – God sent him to church
2nd - God had Elijah tell Him what the problem was
3rd – God dealt with the false beliefs/ false ideas that were fueling Elijah’s depression
And lastly – God gave Elijah something to do
Now let’s take each of these one at a time.
1st – God sent him to church – God sent him to Mt. Horeb, the Mt. of God (where the Law given to Moses).
Church is one of the best places to deal with Depression. When Church is done right it’s the place where we listen to each other and help one another. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Gal. 6:2.
Back in 1999 Duke University conducted a study of nearly 4000 older adults. One of their conclusions: "Attendance at a house of worship is related to lower rates of depression and anxiety."
But church doesn’t stop with being in a house of worship… Time alone with God in prayer and Bible Study is a powerful anti-depressant.
Andrew Newberg, director of clinical nuclear medicine at the University of Pittsburgh used the SPECT technique and made an interesting discovery. Newberg studied the brains of religious individuals who either prayed or meditated. And his team found a dramatic increase in action in the front region of the brain called the pre-frontal cortex. The region is associated with judgment and empathy. The group also discovered decreased activity in a region of the brain known as the superior parietal lobe, which gives us our sense of "self." The findings seem to indicate that people - while engaged in spiritual pursuits - felt a loss of self. Newberg says prayer and meditation have been shown to lower the risk of depression and heart disease and improve immune function.
So, first, God sent Elijah to church
2ndly - God had Elijah tell Him what the problem was.
God asked Elijah: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” I Kn. 19:13. God didn’t ask this question just once, He asked Elijah that same question two separate times. "What are you doing here?" Didn’t God know? Of course He knew - He’d sent Elijah to this mountain. But Elijah needed to vocalize what was wrong in his life. Elijah needed to explain what HE thought the problem was. And once Elijah verbalized his belief of what was wrong, then…
3rd – God dealt with the false beliefs, the false ideas that were fueling Elijah’s depression.
Jesus said, “The truth shall set you free.” Why is that? Because false ideas, false beliefs (especially false ideas about God) have power to put us in bondage. Our lives are built around what we think is true about life. And if the foundations of that reasoning are based on wrong information or impressions, the result can be devastating.
Elijah’s reply to God revealed what Elijah had wrong. ELIJAH DIDN’T THINK THAT GOD WAS DOING ANYTHING.
In I Kn. 19:14 Elijah replied to God and said, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."
Hidden in the midst of that statement was this accusation:
"I’ve been beating my head against the wall serving you Lord. And everything seems to just be falling apart around me… What have you been doing God???
And so, God corrects Elijah’s thinking. He tells him "Elijah – you’re not the only one left" In I Kn. 19:18 God tells Elijah - “I have reserved seven thousand in Israel— all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him."
"Elijah, I’ve not been doing nothing (God seems to be saying)… in fact, I’m just getting started" - "Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu … king over Israel, and anoint Elisha …to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. I Kn. 19:15-17.
In other words, don’t worry about it Elijah… I’ve got it all under control. I AM doing something.
When our allied troops were making their way across Europe to cross Hitler’s forces, they came across a bombed out building that had this inscription scrawled on a basement wall:
"I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining.
I believe in love even when it is not shown.
And I believe in God even when He doesn’t speak."
When a person is depressed, they don’t think God is doing much of anything. They have no hope, no confidence, and God isn’t easily seen by them. A person in depression needs to realize that – just like Elijah – God IS working in their lives… even when they can’t see Him.
So, God got Elijah into Church, He got him to tell Him what was wrong, and He corrected some of his false thinking and beliefs…
And lastly, God gave Elijah something to do
When God finished His counseling session with Elijah, Elijah was still in his complaining mood, but God basically tells him: “Get back to work. I’ve got a job for you to do… make yourself useful”
The Lord said to him, "Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu … king over Israel, and anoint Elisha … to succeed you as prophet.” I Kn. 19:15-16.
During a lecture on mental health someone once asked Dr. Carl Menninger: "What would you advise a person to do if that person felt a nervous breakdown coming on?" Most people thought he would say, "Go see a psychiatrist immediately," but he didn’t.
Much to everyone’s astonishment, Dr. Menninger replied, "Lock up your house, go across the railroad tracks, find somebody in need, and help that person." To overcome discouragement, "Don’t focus on yourself, get involved in the lives of other people."
Psychiatrists and psychologists and little pink pills can do wonderful things for people suffering from depression… but for real healing it’s hard to beat God:
Be not dismayed whate’er betide, God will take care of you;
Beneath His wings of love abide, God will take care of you.
God will take care of you, through every day, o’er all the way;
He will take care of you, God will take care of you.
Straight Talk About Depression
Most of us are familiar with this song – it’s the theme from the television show Friends. But have you ever caught the lyrics to the song? They read, in part:
“So no one told you life was gonna be this way
Your job’s a joke, you’re broke, your love life’s D.O.A.
It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear
When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year.”
You know, some of us can relate to that first verse a little more than others. We all have bad days, but for some of us those bad days have stretched into bad weeks, months or even years.
We find ourselves talking like Eeyore, and saying things like, “whatever can go wrong will go wrong.” We have a pessimistic, browbeaten, downcast view of life. We suddenly find that we can’t sleep, we’ve lost (or gained) weight, some days we just don’t want to get out of bed. If you can relate to what I’m talking about, then you might just be depressed.
Some of you bristle when I say that. There’s a part of you that simply does not want to, or is not willing to admit to depression in your life. Many Christians deny that it’s possible for them or any believer. Some even look at depression as a sin. You may even find yourself saying something like, “I’m a Christian, and Christians can’t be depressed.”
You might be surprised. God’s people have a long and distinguished history of going through times of deep depression, and today we’re going to get some straight talk about depression right from the Great Physician Himself!
First and foremost, let’s define depression. Just what is it? Here’s my definition, and it might surprise you. “Depression is an appropriate, God-given emotion in response to certain stimulus.” It affects millions of people. One report I read said that 1 out of 7 people will seek professional help for depression – and those are just the ones who are willing to admit they need help! Millions more stay home and deny their condition – and are robbed of happiness for weeks, months or even years. It is estimated that depression costs American business 4-6 BILLION dollars per year in reduced productivity, absenteeism, and related illnesses.
Depression is a specific alteration of a person’s mood in a downward direction. It is often accompanied by feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, overwhelmed by circumstances, withdrawal and isolation. People suffering from depression are often prone to lethargy, extreme tiredness, overeating or sudden weight loss, worry, loss of sex drive, uncontrolled or inappropriate episodes of crying, and withdrawal from social activities, friends and family.
Men are 7-8 times more likely to suffer from depression than women. Most women have someone to talk things out with – and their depression usually stems from the loss of a loved one. Men, however usually suffer from depression due to some social humiliation. They feel like a failure, they view themselves as a loser. They no longer feel like a man in a world of men. Instead of taking care of others, they need to be taken care of. Instead of providing, they feel like they are being provided for. It attacks their pride, it attacks their manhood, and they respond in depression.
Depression is often associated with sadness, but it goes much further. Depression is more intense, it lasts longer and, most telling, it interferes with our ability to function. We all have times of sadness, but depression gets in the way of normal life activities.
Ok, so we know what it is, but how can I claim that it is God-given? That just goes against what so many want us to believe. I believe that depression is akin to pain – in fact, it is in some ways very similar. Pain is unpleasant and uncomfortable, but it is necessary for life. A person who felt no pain would soon die from the effects of that loss. They would break bones without knowledge, get inflammations like appendicitis and not be aware of it until it burst, caused in infection and death. They would never learn to not touch a hot stove, and repeatedly burn themselves and damage themselves. Pain is unpleasant, but necessary – it warns us of bad behavior, and dangerous circumstances.
When we see the indicators of depression, the loss of perspective, when everything looks terrible, diet changes, sleep changes, gloominess, tiredness, isolation – when those indicators appear, we need to look at it like we look at pain. “What is causing this?” “Is this an indicator of something I need to correct?”
There is another reason why I believe depression is a God-given emotion. It appears so consistently in the lives of God’s children. In both the Old and New Testaments we see God’s people dealing with depression. In Numbers chapter 11, Moses cried out to God – tell me if this doesn’t sound like depression to you:
11 So Moses said to the Lord, "Why have You afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I beget them, that You should say to me, ’Carry them in your bosom, as a guardian carries a nursing child,’ to the land which You swore to their fathers? Where am I to get meat to give to all these people? For they weep all over me, saying, ’Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me. If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now--if I have found favor in Your sight--and do not let me see my wretchedness!"
You know, somehow that episode from Moses life never made it into the script of The Ten Commandments or The Prince of Egypt movies about Moses. They are lines that we want to ignore – but God included them in His account! Moses was depressed – he was so down he wanted to die!
In I Kings 18 & 19 – we read that Elijah had just had his greatest moment of victory – he had called down fire from heaven that consumed an offering, and the alter that the offering had been laid on – great revival swept through the people who had seen this amazing show of God’s power. Elijah was on top of the world! That was in chapter 18 – but in chapter 19 – immediately after his great victory, Elijah is on the run – somehow convinced that his life is in danger, that he is alone, that God has abandoned him, verse 4 says, Elijah prayed to the Lord that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now Lord, Take my life, for I am worthless!”
Paul talks about being in despair even to the point of death 2 Cor. 1:8. And, of course, Jesus faced depression as well. Did you know that? Hebrews tells us that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are, but without sin – even with depression. We can focus our attention on the events during that last week of Jesus life, culminating on His resurrection. But on that Thursday night, the night before He went to the cross, Jesus went to the Garden, and He faced all the onslaught of Satan. He took His disciples with Him, and when He got to the inner part of the garden, he said to his closest friends, Peter, James and John, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death…” Does that not sound like depression to you? Sure it does! That’s almost a textbook definition of depression – “exceeding sorrow of the soul that quite often does lead to death.”
Depression is a normal part of life – how do we, like Jesus, deal with depression, and yet not sin? I want to give you six steps to deal with depression in a healthy way. Its time for some Straight Talk About Depression - Jesus gave us a perfect example of the first step in that last statement.
1. Acknowledge the Emotion and Identify the Severity of it.
told His disciples, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful…” He recognized the
condition – He acknowledged it to Himself, His friends, and to the Father. We
need to do the same. Denying the emotion will lead to sin – it is believing a
lie, it is ignoring God’s wiring of our frame, it is abusing our bodies and
minds. When we have recognized the emotion, we need to determine just how
severe it is. We all have some periods of depression – is this one worse than
what is usual.
Is it Mild depression – “the blues,” sadness, melancholy. Is it Moderate depression along with the sadness comes a feeling of helplessness. Trouble making decisions, crying, change in appetite and sleep patterns. If that’s the case, you have moderate depression and you should seek help from your elders or a Christian counselor. When depression gets Severe, you add to all of the above an inability to function. We stop going to work or school. We sometimes don’t even get out of bed. Thoughts of suicide creep in – in these cases, immediate care is necessary, and further steps must be taken. But recognizing and rating the emotion is the first one.
2. Decide Who or What is Going to Be in Control of your life.
God allows depression in our lives to warn us that we need to deal with something. Is there some past trauma that we have not dealt with – loss, anger, abuse, poor decisions of the past, is there sin in my life? We then need to decide if we are going to allow the depression to control our lives, or are we going to allow God to control our lives? H. Norman Wright describes depression as being like a person in a deep pool of water, holding on to a large, heavy rock. The rock will pull us down. If we refuse to let it go, it will destroy us. It is not the rock that will destroy – it is our decision. We must determine that we will let the depression go, and take the steps necessary to recover.
3. Share the Concern with God
We let go of that rock by giving it to God. Prayer is essential in dealing with depression. Let God know what is going on in your heart and mind. I recall the time when I got an email that some friends of ours found out that their 3 month old baby has tested positive for Cystic Fibrosis. The next day, I received an email from a woman I had never met who had experienced a miscarriage and lost her little baby. And in the midst was a heartbreaking story of child abuse of two tiny little babies. In each case, the people felt like they somehow weren’t allowed to be angry or question or cry out to God – that to express their real emotions would be a sin. Folks – that’s simply not the case. When Jesus was in His depressed state, He went right to God, and cried out, “Please God, deliver Me from this!” Moses and Elijah wanted to die! But you know what God did in those cases, He came and He ministered to them. He provided for them. He loved them, and embraced them. Angels came and ministered to Jesus and strengthened Him. For Elijah, God came and made him a cake, brought him drink, and allowed him to rest. Folks, God wants us to be honest with Him – He wants us to share our deepest hurts, disappointments, needs – even our anger! He loves us – He won’t punish us for our honesty. Take it to Him.
As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, While they continually say to me, "Where is your God?" When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast. Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.
4. Depression does not have to be seen as a weakness or something to be avoided, it can be seen as a messenger from God that something needs to be addressed. We can turn depression from a tool of Satan to derail us into a tool of God to get us on track! Depression is a symptom that warns us that we are in deep weeds – it is designed to drive us back to God. Depression is not a punishment from God, it is a natural God-given warning sign to help us avoid depression’s control of our lives.
5. Identify the Causes – there is usually more than one cause.
Am I getting enough rest? Am I taking care of myself physically [EXERCISE]? Have I started taking some new medication that is causing this? Am I depressed because I have not dealt with some past loss or conflict? Am I telling myself the truth about life, or telling myself lies? Is there sin in my life? If I know what God wants me to do, and I am not doing it – or if I’m doing something that I know I’m not supposed to be doing, then I am going to be prone to depression. Is there something that I need to clean up?
6. Get busy – Make the Changes.
Once the causes have been identified, we can usually see what needs to be done. Believe it or not, exercise is one of the most effective treatments for depression – and it’s the last thing we want to do when we are feeling down. But getting out and walking, running, playing tennis, any kind of exercise will greatly reduce the affects of depression. Checking our thoughts is another key. The Bible says we should take every thought captive. What am I thinking? Am I seeing things in a healthy way, or am I seeing everything as the end of the world? Seeking or granting forgiveness for a past hurt may be necessary. That doesn’t mean we excuse or allow abuse, but we forgive those who have hurt us – we let go of the burden. If there is sin that is causing the depression, then I need to stop – period! Continuing to live a life that is hypocritical is a huge cause of depression – when I know what I should be doing, but don’t do it – I’m a mess!
Here’s what I would recommend – get alone someplace – go to the library and get a corner cubical – and PRAY. Ask God to reveal to you the causes of your depression. Then take a legal pad, and write a LIST of the causes of your depression. Then RANK them – “Rest, diet, medication, anger, pain, grief, negative thoughts, unrealistic expectations, sin - whatever,” rank them in the order that you believe they deserve, then ATTACK the top one. Stay at it – be disciplined, don’t wait until you feel like it – DO IT!
Add to those steps a couple of more: SCRIPTURE – write down verses like Psalm 16:8, 18:28, 27:1 and 46:1 on 3X5 cards and claim the promises of God. Give your pain to God over and over again. Claim Romans 8:37 “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Christ died to give us victory, and that victory is yours to be claimed.
Finally, let me encourage you to SEEK HELP. All through the Bible we see that it is not good for us to be alone. We need to get good, Christian counsel and support. Jesus Himself asked His friends to pray for Him – do we think we don’t need to ask for help?
My friends, I am here to tell you good news today – We don’t need to be held captive to depression – we can experience depression the way God created it to be to be used. Allow it to the catalyst that drives us deeper into the love of God – finding refreshing for our panting souls.
God’s message is one that The Rembrandt’s stole for their song - God said it first -"I’ll Be There For You." He’s here for you - when it hasn’t been your day, week, month or even your year - He’s here for you.
Dealing With Depression
2 Cor. 12:1-10
A businessman on his deathbed called his friend and said, "Bill, I want you to promise me that when I die you will have my remains cremated."
Bill said, "And what do you want me to do with your ashes?" He replied, "Just put them in an envelope and mail them to the Internal Revenue Service and write on the envelope, ‘NOW YOU HAVE EVERYTHING.’" What a depressing thought!
A teacher said to her students, "Boys and girls, there is a wonderful example in the life of the ant. Every day the ant goes to work and works all day. Every day the ant is busy. And in the end, what happens?"
Little Johnny said, "SOMEONE STEPS ON HIM."
Brothers and sisters, I think that many of us feel like we have been stepped on our entire lives by some people and certain circumstances. But we are not alone in our depression! The people of the Bible also experienced it.
Moses was the depressed leader of the people of Israel. Every time he turned around, they griped about something. "We need water." "We are starving." "We want food, but we hate manna." If you were surrounded by a bunch of chronic complainers it would be hard not to be depressed.
Job was depressed. He lost everything, then cursed the day he was born: “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?...I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil." Job 3:11, 3:26
David was depressed: "Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long?…. I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears." Psalm 6:2-3, 6
The apostle Paul was depressed. In 2 Cor. 12 we are told that Paul was given a thorn in the flesh to perhaps keep him humble. BUT PAUL DIDN’T LIKE THAT THORN! No one likes thorns sticking in their side or in their spirit! Paul said it was a messenger of Satan, to torment him.
Commentator Warren Weirsbe wrote, "We do not know what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was. The word translated thorn means ‘a sharp stake used for torturing someone.’ It was a physical affliction of some kind that brought pain and distress to Paul. Some think that Paul had an eye affliction according to Gal. 6:11, but we cannot know for sure.
We do know that God permitted Satan to afflict Paul, just as He permitted Satan to afflict Job. Satan cannot work against a believer without the permission of God.
ISN’T THAT A COMFORTING THOUGHT? Satan is harnessed and God will pull back on the reins whenever He sees Satan trying to get carried away. Brothers and sisters, almost everyone deals with depression in some form or another. Depression, however, is not the end of the story. GOD’S PEOPLE DO NOT HAVE TO LIVE IN A DARK WORLD OF DEPRESSION! God does hear our cries and answer our prayers!
David said in Psa. 40:1-2 "I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire." In regard to Job, it says in Job 42:12 "The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first." God blessed Job with prosperity and gave him twice as much as he had earlier in life. Job 42:10-17. And God comforted Paul and cared for him by saying, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weaknesses." 2 Cor. 12:9
It must be considered that God did not give Paul any explanations. Instead, He gave him a promise. WE DO NOT LIVE ON EXPLANATIONS; WE LIVE ON PROMISES!"
God’s promise to Paul was: MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT. My grace is strengthening. God was going to bless Paul with whatever he needed to both endure and live the Christian life. God’s promise was a sure thing for Paul and for us, as well. We must believe. We must trust. And we must ask. Brothers and sisters, depression in any form is not perceived as a good thing. But with God’s help, blessing and grace it can be handled and overcome.
Let me share some practical things from God’s wisdom that can help you deal with your depression no matter how strong or simple it is.
I. STOP COMPLAINING
A man said to a waitress, "Do you serve breakfast here?" Waitress: "Sure, what will it be?"
Man: "Let me have some watery scrambled eggs. Some burnt toast and some weak coffee."
Waitress: "Whatever you say, sir."
Man: "Now, are you doing anything while that order is being filled?"
Waitress: "Well, not much."
Man: "Then you could please sit here and nag me for a while. I’m homesick."
I find it hard to believe that anyone could be homesick for nagging or complaining. But that’s what some people hear a lot at home. Probably more than we realize. And it’s everywhere: in the workplace, in the mall, at Wal-Mart, and sometimes in the church, sad to say. Yet Phi. 2:14 still says "Do everything without complaining or arguing."
We are commanded by God to stop complaining about everything. Griping and complaining only makes things bitter, not better. Even though most people think it is their God-given right to complain, Christian people should realize that griping and complaining is not pleasing to God. God was not impressed when the people of Israel complained.
1 Cor. 10:1-5 "For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. NEVERTHELESS, GOD WAS NOT PLEASED WITH MOST OF THEM..."
I Cor. 10:10 "And do not grumble, as some of them did and were killed by the destroying angel."
That doesn’t sound very good, and it wasn’t. God is not pleased when we gripe and complain. Especially, when we have it so good. And besides, someone said, "Whenever you are tempted to tell your troubles to other people, remember that half your listeners aren’t interested, and the rest are glad you’re finally getting what’s coming to you."
Instead of complaining about what we don’t have or what we don’t like in our lives, we should look at what we do have and thank God for it!
When my mountain bike was stolen a few months ago I could have griped and complained about how unfair it was and why did it have to happen to me. I could have cursed the individual that apprehended it. I could have prayed upon them ill will and that the fire would come down from heaven and consume them. I could have been bitter and stayed bitter! But I gave that wrath over to God – and thanked Him for sparing me from some unfortunate incident that day had my bike not been stolen.
SEE THE DIFFERENCE IN THE THINKING AND REASONING? And obviously, this is what we must do with everything in life. We must ship out the negative thinking and dwell on the good and the positive. Always focus on the positive. It will help to overcome depression in life.
II. STAY TUNED
What’s your favorite channel on TV? Probably ESPN if you are a sports fan. Or perhaps the History channel if you like history. Or maybe FOX whenever Empire comes on TV. Or it could be a movie channel like HBO or Lifetime, the channel for women. Whatever your favorite channel is, you should be tuned in to God and stay tuned to Him in life.
After Mark Twain had made a tour through Europe where he was honored by great universities and kings, his daughter said, "Daddy, I guess pretty soon you will know everybody except God." OUCH! Brothers and sisters, there are many educated people in the world. People who know lots of stuff about all kinds of things, but no one is truly educated until they come to know the living God through His Son Jesus Christ!
People have differing views about God. Some people actually claim to have no belief at all. They believe there is no God. Why do people think this way? Some people are just plain blind.
A man complained to a friend one time that the world seemed "drained of all its sweetness." His friend replied, "I don’t know what you mean. Are there not roses and violets still on the earth? And does not the sun and the moon still reign in the heaven?"
The beauty of God’s creation is all around us. And it shouts out loudly and clearly, God is the creator of all this beauty. Some people think of God as some sort of judge in the sky just waiting to send people to hell. I don’t know what you think about courtrooms. I don’t know what you think about judges, particularly Judge Judy types! They appear mean, unfriendly, strict, demanding, etc. I don’t think God is like that at all. God is longsuffering. He suffers long with mankind. He is patient, not wanting anyone to perish, but all to be saved.
Still others think of God as some kind of soft touch or pushover. They think of God as being so easy that He’ll let anything go. WRONG. God destroyed the world with a flood long ago to prove there is a point to His patience.
Others think of God as being a helpless old man in the sky. Many think of God as "the old man upstairs." He’s very old, so He is very weak, helpless, can’t take care of Himself, much less anybody else. WRONG. Throughout history God has displayed that He is not weak. He has displayed His mighty power and will again.
Finally, there are those of us who believe that God is our loving, heavenly Father! "Our Father who is in heaven..." Mt 7:11 Jesus said, "If you, then, though you are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him."
Brothers and sisters, one thing that helps me very much when I get down is the fact that I know I have a Father who loves me unconditionally. He doesn’t condone my failures, but He also won’t condemn me because I am in Christ. I know that He knows all about me and loves me anyway. He knows everything I have to face in life and He understands. He sympathizes with me fully. He sympathizes with me when I am hurting, full of pain, and crying. He sympathizes with me when no one else does. I find comfort, release, and relief in His tenderness.
He can do things for us that no one else can. He can help us in our down times, in our times of depression. BUT HOW DO WE CONNECT WITH HIM? We connect with our Father through His son Christ. Jn. 14:6 Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Mk. 16:16 "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved..." Acts 2:38 "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
We connect with God through believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and surrendering to Him. Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God? Do you believe that He died on the cross to save you from your sins? Then surrender to Him. Believe. Obey. Be baptized into Him. Walk with Him. Read His Word. Allow His Spirit to work in you. And the more you do these things, the more your spirit will be lifted from the mire of depression.
III. SHAPE UP
I Tim. 4:8 "For physical training is of some value..."
Doctor to patient: Sorry, but right now you’re not in good enough shape to get in shape.
It is said that regular exercise toughens the mind as well as the body. After working out three times a week for six months, one group was found to be 20% fitter. Bonus: they also scored 70% better in a test of complex decision making. WHY THIS INFORMATION ABOUT EXERCISE? Because it works. You work the body and it will work for you.
Not only does exercise improve the body and mind, it also improves the spirit of a person. It can help to relieve some of the effects of depression.
A young mother was feeling terribly low about life. She said, "I made an appointment to see a family doctor in our area, hoping he might be able to recommend some vitamins to help me feel better. Instead, he gave me a checklist to fill out. He evaluated my answers, then said the three magic words that brought both terror and hope into my life: ‘You’re clinically depressed.’"
She said, "The doctor handed me a prescription. He also gave me some advice: ‘Exercise for half an hour, three to five times a week. As much good as the medication will do, the exercise will do that much or more.’"
She said, "I thought Prozac and sweat made an odd combination. I know now that it’s not so strange after all. Long-term depression can occur as chemistry in the brain gets out of whack.
"Think of a swimming pool: With the right balance of chemicals, a pool stays clear and clean. But when the chemistry gets out of balance, the pool becomes cloudy and algae-filled, and it can take months to get things balanced and clear again. Both medication and exercise impact brain chemistry in a positive way. Medication can replenish seratonin, while exercise releases feel-good endorphins."
Brothers and sisters, exercise works! It helps the body, mind and spirit. So shape up!
IV. SEPARATE SELF
A little boy was balancing himself on his head. An older woman came by. "Aren’t you too young to do that? You are only six," said the lady who knew him.
"It’s all right," replied the boy. "You see, I’m nine when I am upside-down."
Brothers and sisters, there will always be people who are going to tell you that you can’t do something or you won’t amount to a hill of beans or something along that line. THEY ARE NEGATIVE PEOPLE OUT TO SPREAD THE NEGATIVE NEWS! There will always be some people who are quick to put you down or take you down with their negativism.
It has been said that as much as 77% of everything we think is negative and counterproductive and works against us. People who grow up in an average household hear "No" or are told what they can’t do more than 148,000 times by the time they reach age 18. Result: Unintentional negative programming. Pro. 13:20 "He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm."
A bride of several months was sawing away at the end of a ham. "Why," asked a neighbor, "are you sawing off the end of that ham?"
"Because my mother always did it," the bride replied. A few days later, the neighbor met the bride’s mother. "Your daughter tells me you always saw off the end of a ham before you bake it, and I wonder why."
"Frankly," the mother replied, "I do it because my mother did it. Why not ask her?" The neighbor phoned the grandmother who lived in the same town. The grandmother let her in on her secret. "I never owned a baking pan large enough to hold a ham. Why do you ask?"
People do influence one another. Good, bad or otherwise, we do influence one another.
Pro. 12:26 "A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray."
Pro. 14:7 "Stay away from a foolish man, for you will not find knowledge on his lips."
1 Cor. 15:33 "Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character." Bad company, bad associations corrupt us in many ways. And not just morally. The people we run with can either pick us up or put us down. Negative people are not good to be with. I realize that you can’t get away from all negative people, but if it’s a matter of choice, then choose to stay away from them. Separate yourself from those who can bring you down.
V. SOOTHE OTHERS
A Milwaukee teacher took her first-grade class to a dairy where a guide showed the children through the entire plant, explaining the whole process. The tour over, the guide asked if anyone had any questions. One little girl raised her hand. "Did you notice," she asked, "that I’ve got on my new snowsuit?"
Elizabeth Chevalier, author of the best-selling novel, Driven Woman, wrote in a letter to Macmillan, "Have you heard the one about the novelist who met an old friend? After they had talked for two hours, the novelist said, "Now we’ve talked about me long enough—let’s talk about you! What did you think of my last novel?"
Brothers and sisters, any time our focus is on ourselves we are the losers and so is everyone else around us. When Christ walked the earth His focus was on people.
Mt. 9:36 "When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless..."
As followers of Christ, our focus should also be on others. We should be quick to see the hurt in people and move to help them if we can.
Rom. 12:15 "Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep."
Pro. 12:25 "An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up."
When you feel down or trapped in a certain situation, get outside of yourself and do something nice for someone. God put us here to help one another...to be kind and loving to one another. And when we bless others, we bless ourselves. Pro. 11:25 "A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed."
We need to be in the refreshing business! We should be a breath of fresh air to those around us. We should also be the medicine that soothes aching hearts.
A would be fisherman related an experience that presents a good lesson for the soul-winner. He said he was out fishing for trout; he had worked hard and caught none. His equipment was excellent but he was unable to catch any fish. Finally he came upon an older fisherman whose sack was full of trout. He asked him how he was so successful.
The older fisherman answered: "There are three rules to follow in trout fishing: first, keep yourself out of sight; second, keep yourself further out of sight; third, keep yourself still further out of sight."
That is the best advice I have ever heard for becoming a successful fisher of men. I must keep myself out of sight and put Jesus Christ in full view.
And that’s the best advice I know on how to get rid of depression in my life. Get my mind off myself and get it on Christ and others. The more I learn to love Christ and love others, the less depressed I will be.
Spiritual Solutions For Depression
“Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional.
We cannot avoid pain, but we can avoid joy”.
Many are suffering from emotional stress that often times leads to depression. Jim Varney who played Earnest T ("know what I mean") in many movies suffered untold pain and misery until he consented to clinical depression medication, but still struggled to overcome deep feelings of sadness all his life. If he would have found the spiritual solutions to depression, perhaps he would not have sought solutions in smoking and other vices that led to his death from cancer at the young age of fifty.
The following are ten spiritual guidelines for overcoming and dealing with depression:
1. The Holy Spirit amplifies His nearness and comforting powers to us, when we are feeling depressed. David wrote, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psa. 34:18. Ask the Lord to help you feel His uplifting power as He rescues you from all kinds of depressed feelings, discouragement or burdens.
2. The Holy Spirit shields us from taking set backs too personally. David wrote, "But you are a shield around me O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the Lord I cry aloud, and He answers me from His holy hill." Psa. 3:3,4. Ask the Lord to help you look to Him when you are tempted to take insults, opposition or criticisms personally.
3. The Holy Spirit gives us relief from our feelings of distress. David wrote, "Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer." Psa. 4:1. Ask the Lord to alleviate and deliver you from all kinds of emotional, mental and physical pain.
4. The Holy Spirit gives us an increased sense of hope when we are feeling sad. David wrote, "Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall praise Him. The help of my countenance and my God." Ask the Lord to help you pray and speak in a positive way that affirms your faith and hope in His deliverance.
5. The Holy Spirit helps us shift our focus away from our troubles and on to God’s power, promises and purposes. Jesus said, "They hated me without reason. But, when the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning." Jn. 15: 26, 27. Ask the Lord to help you become so involved with ministering in Jesus name that you are not tempted to focus on your troubles.
6. The Holy Spirit knows how to help every person adapt and experience victory in their circumstances. Jesus said, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me. Going a little farther He fell with His face to the ground and prayed. ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." Matt. 26:37-42. Ask the Lord to help you adapt and overcome any sadness, hardship or opposition with a willingness to do all of God’s will.
7. The Holy Spirit reminds us of the way He delivered Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, from depression. Jeremiah was a man given to introspective self-analysis and negative questioning about the suffering he saw. He never married and did not enjoy the support of his family, therefore, most people thought he had something wrong with him. Jeremiah’s primary ministry was to speak as a prophet to people who were rebellious, indifferent, and disobedient to God. Being a timid man, he experienced numerous bouts of depression, feelings of rejection and harsh ridicule. All of this added to the fact that he lived at a time when Israel’s enemies continually oppressed all of the Jews. Still, he was faithful to deliver God’s words of judgment to the nothing was too difficult. Ask the Lord to help you avoid measuring your success in social, cultural, or any human terms. Ask the Lord to help you follow the example of Jeremiah when he listened to God say to Him, "I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? Jer. 32:27.
8. The Holy Spirit helps us imitate Godly people who triumphed over their times of despair. Paul wrote, "Through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as imposters, known yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything." 2 Cor. 6:8-10. Ask the Lord to help you look at life’s difficulties more from the eyes of former Godly heroes of the faith. Paul’s response to hardships shows us how God’s strength transforms the Godly into great examples of how every believer can experience joy in the midst of many discouraging circumstances.
9. The Holy Spirit uses discouraging situations to produce in us greater Godliness that is profitable for all things. Peter wrote, "After you have suffered for a little while. The God of all grace, who calls you with a holy calling will Himself, confirm you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." I Pet. 5:10. Ask the Lord to give you more of a teachable heart allowing God to create greater Godly maturity in all areas of your relationships, your personal lifestyle and your ministries.
10. The Holy Spirit energizes us when we are feeling down, dispirited or disillusioned. Paul wrote, "Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure." Phil. 2:12-14. Ask the Lord to give you greater energy, motivation and certainty that He will supply whatever you need to accomplish all of His will through your life & ministry.
Coping With Spiritual Depression
Psa. 42: 1- 5
This Psalm is a song and instruction - “To the choirmaster, a Maskil for the sons of Korah.”
So the heading implies that this Psalm was probably used in public worship and was sung as such.
The Psalms in general are written to awaken and express and shape the emotional life of God’s people. Poetry and singing exist because God made us with emotions, not just thoughts. Our emotions are massively important.
The second thing to notice in the heading is that this particular Psalm is called a “maskil.” It’s not clear what the word means. That’s why most versions don’t translate it. It comes from a Hebrew verb that means to make someone wise, or to instruct. So when applied to psalms, it may mean a song that instructs, or a song that is wisely crafted.
An Overview of Psalm 42 demonstrates six things that this godly man does in his spiritual depression—six things that I think are meant to shape how we deal with our own seasons of darkness.
First of all - Externally his circumstances are oppressing.
Verse 3 says that his tears mock him as enemies “they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?” Verse 10 says the same thing, only it describes the effect as a deadly wound: “As with a sword in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?’”
Second off - The Internal emotional condition of the psalmist is depressed and full of turmoil.
Verses 5 and 11, he describes himself as “cast down” and “in turmoil.” In verse 3 he says, “My tears have been my food day and night.” So he is discouraged to the point of crying on a continuous basis. In verse 7 he says that it feels like drowning: “All your breakers and your waves have gone over me.”
In all of this, he is fighting for hope. Verse 5: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Verse 11: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” He is not surrendering to the emotions of discouragement. He is fighting back.
So here are six ways that this psalmist responds to the discouragement and turmoil that has come with the taunts of his enemies. I’ll put them in an order that they might have happened, though they surely overlap and repeat themselves.
He asks God “Why?”
First, he responds to his circumstances at one point by asking God Why? Verse 9: “I say to God, my rock: ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?’” The word forgotten is an overstatement. And he knows it is. He just said in verse 8, “By day the LORD commands His steadfast love, and at night His song is with me.”
What he means is that, it looks like God has forgotten him. It feels as if God has forgotten him. If God hasn’t forgotten him, why aren’t these enemies driven back and consumed? It would be good if all of us were so composed and careful in the expression of our discouragements that we never said anything amiss. But that is not the way we are. In the midst of the tumult of emotions, we are not careful with our words.
Second, in the midst of his discouragement he affirms God’s sovereign love for him. Verse 8: “By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.” In verses 5 and 11, he calls God “my salvation and my God.” And even though he says it looks as if God has forgotten him, he never stops believing in the absolute sovereignty of God over all his adversity. So at the end of verse 7, he says, “All your breakers and your waves have gone over me.” Your breakers and your waves have gone over me.
In other words, all his crashing and tumultuous and oppressing and discouraging circumstances are the waves of God. He never loses this grip on the great truths about God. They are the ballast in his little boat of faith. They keep him from capsizing in the tumult of his emotions. O how many of you have learned this more deeply than I because of the waves that have broken over your lives. You have learned deeply that it is no relief to say that God does not rule the wind and the waves. So the psalmist affirms God’s sovereign love for him in and through all the troubles.
Third, he sings to the Lord at night, pleading for his life. Verse 8: “By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.” This is not a song of jubilant hope. He doesn’t feel jubilant hope. He is seeking jubilant hope. This is a prayer song and pleading song—a song “to the God of my life.” That is, a song pleading for his life.
Fourth, the psalmist preaches to his own soul. Verse 5: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” O how crucial this is in the fight of faith. We must learn to preach the truth to ourselves.
Fifth, the psalmist remembers. He calls past experiences to mind. He remembers past corporate worship experiences. Verse 4: “These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.”
O how much could be said here about the importance of corporate worship in our lives. Don’t take these times together lightly. What we do here is a real transaction with the living God. God means for these encounters with Him in corporate worship to preserve your faith now and in the way you remember them later. If corporate worship were not a real supernatural work of God, it would be pure sentimentalism for the psalmist to remember his experiences. He is not engaging in nostalgia. He is confirming his faith in the midst of turmoil and discouragement by remembering how real God was in corporate worship.
O how much more serious we should be about corporate worship. Ask the Lord to show you what is at stake here.
Finally, the psalmist thirsts for God like a deer pants for the stream. Verses 1–2: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” What makes this so beautiful, and so crucial for us, is that he is not thirsting mainly for relief from his threatening circumstances. He is not thirsting mainly for escape from his enemies or for their destruction.
It’s not wrong to want relief and to pray for it. It is sometimes right to pray for the defeat of enemies. But more important than any of that is God himself. When we think and feel with God in the Psalms, this is the main result: We come to love God, and we want to see God and be with God and be satisfied in admiring and exulting in God.
A likely translation of the end of verse 2 is: “When will I come and see the face of God.” The final answer to that question was given in John 14:9 and 2 Corinthians 4:4. Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” John 14:9. And Paul said that when we are converted to Christ we see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” 2 Corinthians 4:4.
When we see the face of Christ, we see the face of God. And we see the glory of His face when we hear the story of the gospel of his death and resurrection. It is “the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God.”
May the Lord increase your hunger and your thirst to see the face of God. And may he grant your desire through the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Round And Round We Go
The older we get, the more we begin to see life as an endless cycle. Babies are born, then they grow older and then they die. Then more babies are born. It rains, the sun shines for a while and then it rains again. We work, we eat, we sleep and then we get up the next day and do it all again.
Spring comes, summer follows, then fall, then winter, and finally it is spring again. Everything goes round in circles. If we look at life only from the viewpoint of the natural physical man, it can get very discouraging. Life is nothing more than one big “rat race.”
That is what Solomon is seeing in this first chapter of Ecclesiastes. He is contemplating these cycles of life and asking himself the question, "What does it all mean?" "What’s the point of it all?"
If life is only part of a great cycle over which we have no control, is life worth living? If this cycle is repeated season after season, century after century, why are we unable to understand it and explain it? Solomon pondered these questions as he looked at the cycle of life ’under the sun,’ and he came to three bleak conclusions: nothing is changed (1:4-7), nothing is new (1:8-11), and nothing is understood (1:12-18).
Nothing Ever Really Changes Eccl. 1:4-7
The Earth Essentially Remains the Same 1:4. Today we walk on the same earth and on the same ground where our ancestors walked. The planet really has not changed much since creation, (actually since the flood). Men still live, have children, and die. Generation passes into generation and time marches on, but for the most part, the earth remains a constant. Compared to the age of the trees man does not stay around long, and compared to the age of the rocks, the life of a man is short indeed.
"The earthly stage remains, but different actors are constantly passing across it." ...S. Olyott
"Fathers are going; children are coming after. None stayeth. The house abideth, but the tenants are continually changing." ...C. Bridges
The Sun Still Shines 1:5
Even on cloudy days, the sun still shines. It has done so for thousands of years and will continue to do so until the Lord no longer has need of it. As long as man can remember, there has always been night and day. The earth continues to revolve around the sun in a continuous, seemingly endless cycle. Days have past, and are passing, and will continue to pass, until God moves us all into eternity. One day quickly dissolves into another. Without God, “What’s the point of it all?”
“The sun rises in the morning and sets at evening in our hemisphere, according to the appearance of things; and then it makes haste to go round the other hemisphere in the night: it "pants", as the word [hastens] signifies; the same figure is used by other writers; like a man out of breath with running; so this glorious body, which rejoiceth as a strong man to run his race, and whose circuit is from one end of the heavens to the other, Ps 19:5,6; is in haste to get to the place where he rose in the morning, and there he makes no stop, but pursues his course in the same track again. By this instance is exemplified the succession of the generations of men one after another, as the rising and setting of the sun continually follows each other; and also sets forth the restless state of things in the world, which, like the sun, are never at a stand, but always moving, and swiftly taking their course.
The Wind Always Blows 1:6
Where does the wind go and where does it come from? What makes it blow harder on one day than on the other? Like the earth and the sun, it too runs in a continuous cycle.
“Today we know that the wind follows certain patterns. The weatherman tells us that there is a low pressure here and a high pressure there. There is movement; winds are blowing. It is obeying certain laws as it is blowing. How did Solomon know that? The whole process follows certain definite, specific laws. In verses 4-7, we have four remarkable statements concerning the laws of nature that make sense and fit right into what men know today. Compare this with other writings that come from one thousand years before Christ. You will find a great deal of false conclusions and superstitions in contrast to the accuracy you find in the Word of God.”
It rains and fills the creeks, which drain into the rivers. The rivers run into the ocean and the moisture from the oceans evaporate into the sky. The weight of the moisture in the clouds produce rain and the cycle continues as it has since the days of Noah’s flood.
“It is a curious fact that Solomon should use language entirely consistent with discoveries such as evaporation and storm currents (vv. 6-7). Who taught Solomon to use terms that readily accommodate facts that the movement of winds which seem to be so lawless and uncertain, are ruled by laws as positive as those which rule the growth of the plant; and that evaporation, the waters that fall on the earth are continually rising again, so that the sea never overflows?”
II. Nothing is Actually New Ecc. 1:8-11
Man Has Not Changed 1:8. Societies change, civilizations change, governments change, but mankind never really changes. We are basically the same as the men who have gone before us. We work and labor for the things we desire. We have the same feelings and the same emotions, and we even have the same problems. Nothing has really changed.
“All things are full of labour.” They worked to survive - We work to survive.
“The eye is not satisfied with seeing.” They were never satisfied and always wanted more - We are never satisfied and always want more.
“The ear [is not] filled with hearing.” They were curious - We are curious. The more a man learns, the more he sees how much there is to learn. The more educated he is the less satisfied he will become.
“Our senses are unsatisfied, and the objects of them unsatisfying. He specifies those senses that perform their office with least toil, and are most capable of being pleased: ‘The eye is not satisfied with seeing,’ but is weary of seeing always the same sight, and covets novelty and variety. ‘The ear’ is fond, at first, of a pleasant song or tune, but soon nauseates it, and must have another; both are surfeited, but neither satiated, and what was most grateful becomes ungrateful. Curiosity is still inquisitive, because still unsatisfied, and the more it is humoured the more nice and peevish it grows, crying, Give, give.”
Things Have Not Changed 1:9-10. Everything new is actually just a recreation of something old. Man can invent something out of things that exist, but only God can create.
“If nothing changes, then it is reasonable to conclude that nothing in this world is new. This ‘logical conclusion’ might have satisfied people in Solomon’s day, but it startles us today. After all, we are surrounded by, and dependent on, a multitude of marvels that modern science has provided for us. How could anybody agree with Solomon that nothing is new under the sun?
The world provides nothing new. Whatever is new is simply a recombination of the old. Man cannot ‘create’ anything new because man is the creature, not the Creator. Thomas Alva Edison, one of the world’s greatest inventors, said that his inventions were only ‘bringing out the secrets of nature and applying them for the happiness of man.’ Only God can create new things.”
C. We Really Don’t Learn Much From History 1:11
We Don’t Remember. Someone once said, “The only thing men learn from history is that men don’t learn from history.” Unfortunately, this is true. If we honestly learned from history, we would be able to end all wars, feed all peoples, have peace in every nation, and serve God universally. However, our memories are short and we do not learn nearly as much from our mistakes as we should. In fact, if we were honest, most of us would have to admit to making the same mistakes over and over again. With humans,“there is no remembrance of former things.”
We are not Remembered. We all have short memories. Even the best memory fades and becomes hard to recall. Do you remember your Great Grandfather? Your Great-great Grandfather? If you cannot remember them, do you think your Great grandchildren will remember you? Most people are not remembered for more than two generations, and at the best, for more than three generations.
“If you think you are going to make an indelible mark on the sands of time, you are going to be very disappointed. Any footprints or impressions you make have already been made by others - but the tide has washed them away, just as it will wash away yours, too. The memory of your efforts will soon be forgotten. We do not live long in the remembrances of others.”
III. Nothing is Completely Understood Ecc. 1:12-18
The Answer Is Not Found By Sincere Desire 1:12-13. “I gave my heart to seek and search out...” Some men are under the impression that their sincere desire to understand life is all that is necessary for them to “figure it out.” The truth is, that no human can fully understand why everything happens the way it does. We must trust God and believe that He knows what is best, especially when we can’t “figure it out.”
That is the true essence of Biblical faith. “At this stage, what Solomon sought more than anything else was knowledge. But, like millions of others who have stretched their minds to the limit, he found no lasting satisfaction in this quest. The world remained full of problems that could not be solved, [even by one as wise as Solomon].
The quest for life’s meaning is frustrating, because it is unattainable [outside of God]. When a person gets wiser, and sees that he is no nearer to his goal than before, how much greater is his disappointment! Who can describe his bitterness and grief?”
The Answer Is Not Found By Doing Great Works 1:14. “I have seen all the works done under the sun.” Solomon’s works were great and many, including the building of the tabernacle, but they did not satisfy.
The meaning of life is not found by being wrapped up work.
The Answer Is Not Found By Worrying About the Past 1:15. “In short, Solomon is saying, ‘The past can’t always be changed, and it is foolish to fret over what you might have done.’ What is wrong cannot be righted; it is water over the dam; and there is no use thinking of what might have been.” Or as someone has put it, Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you any where.”
The Answer Is Not Found By Obtaining Power 1:16. “I have come to great estate.” Not only was Solomon a king, but he was also a wise king. People greatly respected him and he held the highest place of honor in his nation, but this too, did not satisfy him. It is almost humorous to think that a man could have such greatness and still be searching for the answers to life’s questions.
The Answer Is Not Found By Trying to Escape 1:17. “I gave my heart to... know madness and folly.” Some people think the answer is to play the fool. They simply give up hope and claim they do not care. They live by the philosophy, “No Worries, Mate!” or “Be Happy.” In other words, “Don’t think about your troubles or about the deeper things of life. Eat, Drink, and be happy, for tomorrow you die.” This is the conclusion of a natural man and it was Solomon’s conclusion about life “under the sun” without God.
The Answer Is Not Found By Obtaining Wisdom, Experience, or Knowledge 1:16-18.
This is no simple, average, or ordinary man speaking here. This is Solomon, the wisest man (and possibly the richest man) that ever lived. I believe that Solomon was led to a certain amount of arrogance, a certain amount of conceit, since he was wiser than others. Paul writes that ‘Knowledge puffeth up...’ (I Cor. 8:1). Remember that education is based on experience, and experience cannot be trusted. Experience must be tested by the Word of God. Unfortunately, many folk today are testing the Word of God by their experience. My friend, if your experience is contrary to the Bible, then it is your experience, not the Word of God, which is wrong.”
“If anybody was equipped to solve the difficult problems of life and tell us what life is all about, Solomon was that person. He was the wisest man, and people came from all over to hear his wisdom (I Kings 4:29-34). His wealth was beyond calculation so that he had the resources available to do just about anything he wanted to do. He even experienced ‘madness and folly’ (the absurd, the opposite of wisdom) in his quest for the right answers he was seeking. In fact, his great wisdom only added to his difficulties; for wisdom and knowledge increase sorrow and grief. The more we seek knowledge and wisdom, the more ignorant we know we are.
For some people, life may be monotonous and meaningless, but it doesn’t have to be For the Christian believer, life is an open door, not a closed circle; there are daily experiences of new blessings from the Lord. True, we can’t explain everything; but life is not built on explanations; it’s built on promises - and we have plenty of promises in God’s Word.
If you are ‘living in circles,’ then turn your life over to Him.”
Living With The Consequences
One day, a mother explained to her five-year-old daughter that if she chose to disobey her, she would have to live with the consequences. “Oh, Mommy!” the little girl said with a terrified look on her face. “Please don’t make me live with the Consequences. I want to live here with you!”
Well, unbeknownst to that little girl, we all live with the consequences, don’t we? We live with the consequences of the choices and decisions that we’ve made. Sometimes, we even live with the consequences of other people’s actions—someone else does something, and I’m left to deal with the repercussions. And many times, those consequences are not what we would want them to be.
Whether through our own poor choices or through no fault of our own, we all live with the consequences—no one escapes the fierce tides of failure, the attacks of adversity, or the discouragement that comes from debilitating dilemmas. All of us face trials and challenges and, often, find ourselves pressed beneath the weight of the severity of our situations.
If you have ever felt loneliness, disappointment, or failure because of the poor choices you’ve made, and you know more than anything else that you need God’s intervention in your life because you are powerless to make it different on your own—well, this Psalm’s for you! That is exactly where we find David in this Holy Spirit inspired poem. Let’s read this Psalm together:
O Lord, so many are against me. So many seek to harm me. I have so many enemies. So many say that God will never help me. But Lord, you are my shield, my glory, and my only hope. You alone can lift my head, now bowed in shame. I cried out to the Lord, and he heard me from his Temple in Jerusalem. Then I lay down and slept in peace and woke up safely, for the Lord was watching over me. And now, although ten thousand enemies surround me on every side, I am not afraid. I will cry to him, “Arise, O Lord! Save me, O my God!” And he will slap them in the face, insulting them and breaking off their teeth. For salvation comes from God. What joys he gives to all his people. Psa. 3:1-8 (TLB)
The psalms as you may know, many of them written by David, were actually song lyrics or poems inspired by God. The book of Psalms was essentially the hymnal of ancient Israel and many of them continue to be used by Christians today in praise choruses and other worship songs.
Part of what makes these lyrics such moving songs of worship is that they tug at the heart strings of every person, frequently reflecting the problems and pressures of trying to live the way God wants us to and the heartaches that we sometimes encounter along the way.
In this Psalm in particular, David identifies four stages that a person of faith will often go through as they deal with sin, guilt, or hardship in other words, the consequences of life. The first of those stages is despair.
Now, the background of this psalm is somewhat complicated but important. David’s problems began when he slept with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, who was one of the Thirty. This act of adultery led to an even more despicable act on David’s part. In order to cover up his sin, David had Uriah killed. So, adultery led to murder.
From this point onward, David had to live with the consequences of his sin. Fast forward several years: one of David’s sons, Amnon, became a bit too enamored with his half-sister Tamar. Unable to control his lust, he raped her.
Of course, this enraged Tamar’s full brother, Absalom, who sought revenge and got it by killing Amnon. When David learned about both crimes (the rape and the murder), instead of dealing with it in a righteous and just manner, he basically ignores the whole situation. Why? Well, because David had committed basically the same crimes. He once lost control of his urges and ended up killing an innocent man. As a result, David had lost the moral authority to deal effectively with his sons.
In time, Absalom became very defiant. He thought he was morally superior and a worthier leader than his father, so he mounted a rebellion. It was a rebellion that caught David by surprise; so much so, the Bible says that he fled “barefoot and weeping.”
It’s in this context that David wrote Psalm 3. Essentially, he brought all his problems on himself and that’s why he says, “O Lord, so many are against me. So many seek to harm me. I have so many enemies. So many say that God will never help me.” (vs. 1-2 TLB).
Think for a moment about the shame David must have felt being attacked and hunted down by his own son. David was reaping the consequences of the bad choices he had made. Once known as “the man after God’s own heart,” David’s life is now characterized by failure, loneliness, disappointment, and agony.
Can you sympathize? We all make mistakes, don’t we? We all do things that come back to bit us, even haunt us. Even if the struggles you’re facing are not the result of your own failures or sins, you still understand the despair that David felt, don’t you? David was dealing with the rising tide of disloyalty, and about ready to give up hope.
Viktor Frankl once described the dangers of despair while interred in a Nazi death camp: “The prisoner who had lost faith in the future—his future—was doomed.”
Ernest Hemingway once summarized his despair, saying, “I live in a vacuum that is as lonely as a radio tube when the batteries are dead and there is no current to plug into.”
Most of us understand all too well what it is like to feel overwhelmed and hopeless—as if everyone and everything is against you. That’s how David felt and if that’s how you feel right now, don’t despair! David, as down and out as he was, believed with every fiber of his being that God was with him; which leads us to the second stage in approaching adversity—desire.
Hard-pressed by opposition and danger, David confesses his desire for God’s intervention, crying out to him for help. He says, “But you, O LORD, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high” (vs. 3 NLT).
David’s head may have been bowed low with shame, but he knew who could lift his head high. He had made a mess out of his life, but he knew where to turn. As a warrior, David was familiar with the protection of a shield against the swords and arrows of his enemies, and now his heart’s desire—his heart’s cry—was for God to be his shield! He knew that God would hear his prayers: “I will pray to the LORD, and he will answer me from his holy mountain” (vs. 4 NCV).
What was true for David is true for you!
When your life is in shambles and it feels life everything is just falling apart around you, when you’ve messed up and you’ve got nowhere else to turn—turn to Jesus! Turn to Yahweh! As someone once said, “When life knocks you to your knees—well, that’s the best position in which to pray, isn’t it?” He will hear you and he will answer. That’s a promise. The Bible says, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” I Jn. 5:14, 15 (NKJV).
Isn’t that amazing? God actually wants to answer our prayers! As long as what we are asking for doesn’t contradict his purposes and his plan, then he’s overjoyed to answer our requests. The problem is—many Christian don’t even bother to ask. We let prayer turn into some kind of emergency measure: “Well, I’ve tried everything else; I guess all I can do now is pray.”
Often we only talk to God about life when we have a problem and even then we allow the problem to fester and grow a little first. Real prayer ought to be a part of our constant fellowship with God and our worship of him. The Bible says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” Phil. 4:6 (NLT). Don’t just pray about some things, big things, bad things, or sad things, but everything!
Martian Luther was a man of prayer. He once wrote a forty-page letter to his barber, Peter Beskendorf, who asked him how to pray. No, I won’t read all forty pages, but here’s a brief excerpt: “Guard yourself against such false and deceitful thoughts that keep whispering: Wait a while. In an hour or so I will pray. I must first finish this or that. Thinking such thoughts, we get away from prayer into other things that will hold us and involve us till the prayer of the day comes to naught. It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business in the morning and the last in the evening.”
Wonderful advice from a man who knew what he was talking about. According to a Poll reported in USA Today, nine out of ten adults in America say that they pray. That’s encouraging, but let make sure that we’re one of them—everyday. After expressing our desires through prayer, the third stage in dealing with difficulty is dependence.
As we encounter various trials in life we all feel that initial despair, as David did, but once we have expressed our desire for God’s help, we must trust that God is in control and depend on him to take care of it. Many of us have a tendency to lay our troubles at the throne of Jesus in the morning, and then we go and pick them back up later that afternoon.
David demonstrates amazing surrender and dependence on God in this psalm. He was barefoot, on the run, in the dessert, being hunted by his own son ready to usurp the thrown—yet after crying out to Yahweh, David says, “Then I laid down and slept in peace and woke up safely, for the Lord was watching over me. And now, although ten thousand enemies surround me on every side, I am not afraid” (vs. 5 TLB).
Wow. That is faith! That is what it means to trust in God—to truly depend on him and know that everything is going to work out. No matter what conflicts lay ahead of him, David didn’t lose any sleep over it. This reminds me of Mk. 4 when Jesus was in the stern of the boat asleep on a pillow in the middle of a terrible rainstorm. It always intrigued me that this is the only time the Bible ever mentions Jesus sleeping. It seems to demonstrate a level of faith and trust that is not interrupted by what is going on in the world around.
That is the kind of we need, isn’t it? Wouldn’t you like to lay your head down and fall fast asleep, secure in the knowledge that God’s in control and there is nothing to be afraid of, nothing to worry about, nothing to lose sleep over.
That kind of trust and reliance doesn’t come naturally. We have to learn to let go and let God take care of it. And this is the kind of lesson we can only learn through practice. As you look back over your life, even in the bleakest moments, didn’t God work everything in his own time? If you’re in the middle of something now, you can trust that he’ll work this out too. As A.W. Tozer once said, “With the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare, the wisdom of God to plan it, and the power of God to achieve it, what do we lack?”
Once we have learned to depend on God to care for us, the final stage in triumphing over our trials is deliverance! That’s the part we always want to get to.
Finally, David brings everything into perspective. The marauding soldiers of his son, the lack of food or shelter, and even the throne of Israel meant nothing in light of God’s infinite grace and power! David announces: “Arise, O LORD! Rescue me, my God! Slap all my enemies in the face! Shatter the teeth of the wicked! Victory comes from you, O LORD. May you bless your people” (vs. 7-8 NLT).
The NKJV says, “Salvation belongs to the LORD!” (vs.8 NKJV).
The word translated victory or salvation, is the Hebrew word ha-yeshuah. Sound familiar? Yeshuah is the Hebrew pronunciation of Jesus. So, quite literally there is victory in Jesus. There is salvation in his name!
David’s imagery of God knocking the teeth out of his enemies reminds me of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Cor. 15:54-57(NIV).
Humanity’s greatest enemies have always been sin and death, but then Jesus came along, died on the cross for our sins, and knocked the teeth out of them both—pulled their stingers right out! Because of Jesus, we will have the final victory! There is nothing in this world that can push us down or hold us back as long as we have Jesus, because our deliverance and our victory is in him!
We all make mistakes. We all sin and fall short. And most of the time we have to live with the consequences of our sins and failures. But, failure is not the last word; our problems are not the last word; loneliness is not the last word; guilt and shame are not the last words—because “salvation belongs to the Lord.” There is victory in Jesus!
When sin rears its ugly head or you’ve made a mess of your life and you’re living with the consequences, you might despair at first, but then express your desire for God’s mercy and grace, depend on him to see you through, and trust the he is your deliverer, your shield, your glory and your hope!
If you’re in the middle of a mess right now—don’t despair. While we stand and sing, let the words of this song fill your heart with confidence. Turn your troubles over to Jesus and trust in him to save you. No matter what your situation, Yahweh invites you to experience victory in his Son, Jesus!
Learning To Be Positive
In May of 2004, Saturday Night Live introduced the character of Debbie Downer to the world. Debbie’s last name is taken from the Slang for Downer – which refers to someone who persistently adds bad news or negative feelings to a gathering, thus bringing down the mood of everyone around them. In every skit, we find Debbie in a happy, joyful environment, and within moments she is bringing up horrible facts, or pointing out the negative in life…after every comment, you here the orchestra play…wah, wah…
The skit became an instant classic. People loved it because, as they say, comedy imitates life. We all know people like Debbie. People who just bring others down. Sometimes we call them Debbie Downers, sometimes we call them Eeyore.
If they bring you down too much, you might not call them at all. Maybe that personality describes you today. Maybe you tend toward the negative in life. You’ve lost your joy, life never seems to work out for you, everywhere you look, you see unhappy tidings.
I have to admit, there are times in my life when I can get a little melancholy and see the glass as half empty, rather than half full. A little while ago, I was telling a friend of mine about something that was going on in my life and in the middle of my story, she went…”wah, wah”. I said, what was that for? She said, because you’re being a “Debbie Downer!” She was right.
If that describes you today, then I want to encourage you to turn over a new leaf, starting this morning. With God’s help, you have the power to change your outlook.
Romans 12:2, says that we should be “transformed by the renewing of [our] mind.”
Ephesians 4:23 says, “let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.”
Abraham Lincoln said, “A man is about as happy as he makes up his mind to be.”
The question is: how we can become more positive in our lives.
Here are a few keys in choosing to be positive.
Ask God To Help You
So far today, I’ve done all right.
I haven’t gossiped, and I haven’t lost my temper. I haven’t been grumpy, nasty or selfish.
But in a few minutes, God, I’m going to get out of bed and that is when I’m going to need a lot of help.
Life is difficult. We all have problems. We all have our battles to fight. There are times that we feel so overwhelmed, we feel like we’re drowning. But if you’re going to choose to live with a positive attitude, you’ve got to ask God for help. In Chapter 4 of Philippians, Paul tells us to petition God with our requests. In Chapter 3, Paul reminds us that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
Start your day off with the right mindset
Every morning, brother somebody wakes up and recites Psalm 118:24 “This is the day the Lord has made. [I] will rejoice and be glad in it.
It’s amazing what can happen in our lives when we are intentional about the way we chose to view life. Everybody faces good days and bad days. How we choose to live will make all the difference.
2 Corinthians 10:5 – Take captive every thought.
Chuck Swindoll. "The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on Life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think, or say or do. Attitude is more important than appearances, giftedness, or skill. Attitude will make or break a company --- a church --- a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude that we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past, we cannot change the fact that people act a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude --- I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it."
Focus On The Blessing In Your Life.
Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.”
Most of us have a pretty good life. We have a roof over our heads. We rarely lack food or water. Most of our basic needs are met; in fact, most of us don’t even lack the things we want. We live in the greatest nation in the world. We have friends. We can worship in freedom, without fear.
But sometimes we tend to be Debbie Downers. Instead of embracing this amazing life God has given to us, we think about how much better things SHOULD be. And we begin slipping into depression.
Two elderly women went to an orchestra concert. On the way home one asked the other, “How did you like it?” The other woman said, “The way the first violinist blew his nose after the first selection just ruined the entire evening for me.”
Some people miss the entire concert of life because they focus on the wrong thing.
Charles Dickens said, “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many - not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
Do Things That Lift You Up
The worst thing you can do is think on things that bring you down. If you are constantly thinking about sad things, guess what? You’ll be sad.
I’m was talking to my cousin one time on the phone…he asked me how I was doing?
I said, “I am so sad. I just broke up with this girl that I really liked and I can’t get her off of my mind.”
He said, “Tell me about your day.”
I said, “Well, this morning, I went for a walk and thought about how much she meant to me. Then I went to a romantic comedy and thought about all that I had lost and how alone I am. On the way home, I listened to Our Song three times and just remembered the good times.”
My cousin said, “Wow! And what are you doing right now?”
“I’m just going over a few of the love letters that she wrote to me. I just wish I could stop being so sad!”
And he said, “Are you an idiot!!!”
Friends, If you are filling your mind with negative things or listening to music or watching movies that are sad, depressing, or generate negative thoughts and feelings, you’ll feel negative or sad.
Garbage In, Garbage Out.
The reason I love Louie Lamoure books is because there is always a happy ending:
• Good guy meets girl, finds old map to hidden treasure
• Enter bad guy: Bad guy beats up good guy, takes the girl, steals the treasure map
• Good guy pulls himself up by his bootstraps. Beats bad guy, wins the girl, and finds the treasure.
What’s there not to like.
Nothing lifts me up more than going to God when I need Him most.
While on maternity leave, a woman from our office brought in her new bundle of joy. She also had her seven-year- old son with her. Everyone gathered around the baby, and the little boy asked, "Mommy, can I have some money to buy a pop?"
"What do you say?" she asked.
Respectfully, the boy replied, "You’re thin and beautiful."
The woman reached in her purse and gave her son the money.
There is a healing power in laughter.
Yiddish Proverb - What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.
When I’m asked to do a funeral, I try to bring the family together to talk about the life we will be celebrating. Most of them are grieving and hurting. There are tears to go around.
But no one wants to be remembered like that, so I ask them to tell me stories about their loved one. Good stories. As the stories pour out, tears of sadness turn into tears of laughter. And people, for a few moments, are able to just breath again. Proverbs 17:22, “A Cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones…”
Do things that will make you laugh. Go to a funny movie. Go hang out with the funniest person you know. Find the humor in life again and allow yourself the opportunity to simply breath.
Winston Churchill said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”
“This is the day the Lord has made. [I] will rejoice and be glad in it.”